By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos By Kevin Gaydosh
PINEHURST, NC -- Significance onto itself -- that's golf at Pinehurst.
When wealthy New Englander James Walker Tufts purchased 5,000 acres of North Carolina Sandhills land in 1895 (for $1 an acre), people thought he was wasting his money. After all, this particular section of the Tar Heel State had never really amounted to much, and relatively few people lived in the area at the time. Whereas the late 19th Century saw the North American continent being settled literally from sea to shining sea, this corner of the world was looked at as practically worthless.
Ben Bridgers, Pinehurst's Director of Golf, says there was only one product that people were interested in taking from the Sandhills: "Settlers had by and large stayed away from this area prior to Pinehurst's development, because there was little value to take from it. Because of the soil conditions, they didn't really think you could grow crops here, and it was very difficult to get horse & buggy across the land because of the sand pits and pine-barrens. They looked at it as basically worthless land -- that's why they gutted all the pines and sent them overseas -- to make turpentine."
|Payne Stewart's 'One Moment In Time' is forever memorialized in statue near the 18th green of Pinehurst's Course 2. Fittingly, Donald Ross and J.W. Tufts are watching Stewart's immortal celebration.|
Nothing against turpentine, but it seems like Mr. Tufts found a better use for what has become, in the 21st Century, the 'Home of Golf.' His original plans included building a New England style village that would serve as a winter retreat for northeasterners, such as himself -- looking for warmer, healthier environs.
Tufts hired Frederick Law Olmstead (who designed New York City's Central Park) to create the new town. Soon after, a very 'modern' village began to take shape, with paved streets, electricity and a telephone system. Olmstead planted over 200,000 shrubs and trees to provide some color and greenery to the otherwise barren landscape, and the Holly Inn, Pinehurst's first overnight accommodations, opened for guests in 1895.
The Resort grew over the years, and now includes everything you'd expect from an ultra modern upscale resort -- 5-star accommodations, gourmet dining, a full service spa, tennis, and ... golf.
Though golf was really an afterthought during the early days of Pinehurst, in the century and change since its founding, the grand and ancient game has become the centerpiece of what Bobby Jones later called 'America's St. Andrews.' Pinehurst's first nine-hole golf course opened in 1897, but the sport didn't really take off until the arrival of Scottish Golf Professional Donald Ross, in December of 1900.
|You'll see classically styled clocks at all of Pinehurst's golf facilities. Here, it's right across from the 18th green at Course 7.|
Over the course of Ross's near half-century at Pinehurst, he redesigned Course 1, built Courses 2, 3 and 4, and added nine-holes of what would become Course 5. He traded in his title of Golf Professional in favor of Golf Architect, and proceeded to design or re-design over 400 golf courses throughout North America. And because he made Pinehurst his home, he naturally devoted much of his attention to building the golf legacy of what is now one of America's foremost golf destinations.
But don't just take my word for it. The best golf course designing minds in the business seem to share my lofty opinion of the place.
Rees Jones, who designed Pinehurst's Course 7 and was involved with restoring Course 2 prior to the 1999 US Open, says it was not only an honor to work there, it helped launch his career: "I'd have to say that being able to design a course at Pinehurst had a lot to do with the upswing in my career. Once I was hired by Pinehurst, I started getting work for US Open venues and other prominent places. Putting Pinehurst on my resume was a major factor in getting better projects."
Similarly, Tom Fazio, who designed Pinehurst's Course 6 (with his uncle, George Fazio), Course 8 and the redone Course 4, says working at Pinehurst meant a lot more than just building golf courses: "Looking back on my career, it's been such an honor to have built three courses at Pinehurst. It's always been kind of a neat thing, a great feeling to be in a place like Pinehurst, one of the golf capitals of the world, a great place. To be there, then be part of a golf course that had Donald Ross's hand in it (Course 4)."
|That's a big slice of apple pie -- Pinehurst and Old Glory.|
Fazio continues: "It was really a highlight in my career to design Course 8. At the opening ceremonies, we had Byron Nelson and former President Ford there to help celebrate. That was a very special thing, and with Mr. Dedman (Robert Dedman Sr., founder of ClubCorp) asking me to help open the course -- having me play alongside the honored guests, and hitting the first balls off the tee with them -- that was a big honor."
"As I look back on it, thinking -- here I am at Pinehurst, creating a new golf course, and it seems like I just started my career. It's now been 35+ years, and I never would've thought I'd be opening up a brand new golf course at Pinehurst, and to have a past President of the United States and one of the greatest golfers of all time -- and me hitting a golf ball with them. That was a great treat, a wonderful experience," Fazio said.
(Note: Pinehurst added the Jack Nicklaus designed Pinehurst No. 9 in 2014, previously known as National Golf Club.)
|One of the most recognized symbols in golf, Pinehurst's 'Putter Boy,' or 'The Golf Lad' putts into history near the practice green.|
Fazio's not the only one impressed by the Pinehurst experience. It's more than just golf, as you're treated as finely as Mr. Tuft's guests, even into the 21st Century. From the bell staff, to the golf course personnel, to the shuttle van drivers, you'll accumulate more 'Sirs,' and 'Ma'ams' in a few hours at Pinehurst than you would in a year's worth of visits to your local public golf course.
We particularly relished the convenience of it all -- once you've arrived at the Resort, you literally won't need your car, unless you want to make a trip into the neighboring towns of Aberdeen and Southern Pines. The shuttles are prompt, and the drivers helpful. One of them even gladly took me back to the room when I forgot my golf shoes.
We stayed in a Condo on Lake Pinehurst, but many guests seeking the full Pinehurst experience will certainly enjoy The Carolina Hotel, also known as 'The White House of Golf.' The Carolina Hotel has 217 guest rooms and three suites -- and as you'd expect from a ClubCorp property, luxury's the standard.
If you're not staying at The Carolina, you can choose from The Holly Inn (Pinehurst's first inn), The Manor, one-bedroom villas or 1, 2 or 3 bedroom condos, each with a full kitchen and located along golf course fairways -- or the lake, as we were fortunate enough to overlook.
|Ever sensitive to the environment, Course 8 is an Audubon International facility. These signs help to remind you of that fact.|
You certainly won't go hungry at Pinehurst, either. Whether on or off the courses, you'll find great and convenient eating, in a variety of different settings. For those seeking a more formal dining experience, try the Carolina Dining Room or The 1895 Room at the Holly Inn -- which was given a AAA Four Diamond rating. For your after golf eating, we highly recommend The Donald Ross Grill, which offers more traditional clubhouse fare -- and the best burgers we can remember.
As mentioned earlier, Pinehurst also has a spa worth remembering. Whether it's an after golf visit, or a skip golf altogether and indulge visit (for you non-golfers), there's 31,000 square feet of pampering waiting for you. The spa features 28 treatment rooms, a lap pool, steam room, sauna, and a whirlpool. Don't forget the treatments, ranging from massage to hydrotherapy to body treatments, salon and fitness services.
All of Pinehurst's 'treats' are geared towards your enjoyment. None more so than the golf courses. In separate reviews, we've looked at Courses 2, 4, 6, 7 & 8. All are as good as you'll find anywhere, and all are distinctly memorable.
Part of the Pinehurst experience is course conditioning. The fairways are lush, the rough is thick, and the greens roll true. For as much play as these layouts receive from members and guests alike, they're in superb shape. You'll pay good money to stay/play at Pinehurst, but there's excellent return on your dollars.
|Though Pinehurst is certainly the result of the collective efforts of thousands, these two men are responsible for its legacy -- Ross and Tufts.|
And perhaps because of the finely manicured conditions and the grand history at Pinehurst, the USGA awarded Course 2 the 2005 and 2014 U.S. Opens (in 2014, it also hosted the Women's U.S. Open as well). That's quite a quick turnaround for an Open venue -- but what else would you expect from Pinehurst?
The golf design team of Crenshaw and Coore restored Course 2 to its Donald Ross roots in 2011. It's beautiful and still playable for resort guests while remaining a supreme test of golf for the pros.
And some say, Ross may still be around to make sure things are right. There's his statue which overlooks Course 2's eighteenth green, but his 'spirit' is never far away. Bridgers puts it best: "We think he's around all the time. We always joke that whenever someone four or five putts a green, or hits a putt that rolls off into a bunker -- that he's up there somewhere laughing. People look to the heavens, and he's chuckling at the whole scene."
That's the legacy at Pinehurst. You'll certainly garner the history of the property, enjoy the golf courses and the amenities, and leave pleased beyond your expectations. It's got a significance you'll remember for years to come -- or until the next time you visit.
1 Carolina Vista
Village of Pinehurst, NC 28374
Reservations: (800) 487-4653
Course Designers: Donald Ross, Ellis Maples, George & Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Tom Fazio and Jack Nicklaus
Director of Golf: Ben Bridgers
Pinehurst Resort is owned and operated by ClubCorp.
Consult the website for rates and package information.
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